Phil Cox

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God's will - or mine?

4th January 2007

Arthur Wallis used to say, "I have no problem with the will of God, so long as it doesn't conflict with my own".

Let me assure you that, if it hasn't happened already, the day will come when God's will and your will are in serious conflict.

I'm not talking about the instantaneous temptation stuff - when you have a sudden opportunity to do something that's selfish or unloving. That happens frequently - and I'm sure you're aware of at least some of the occasions when it's happened. We say something unkind, or we fail to help someone who needs help, or we display a negative attitude about someone, or something. And later we realise what we've done (or failed to do) and we apologise to God. And we repent - decide not to do it again. And we move on. No, I'm talking about the big stuff - life-changing decisions (although all sin is "big").

Sooner or later, either through Bible reading or some other means, you will come to realise that there's some aspect of the way you live that is not pleasing to God. It could be all sorts of things. It may be an obvious thing like sex before marriage, or drunkenness, or homosexual activity, or financial dishonesty. It's probable that you'll have been kidding yourself along, pretending to yourself and to God that it's not sin at all. But - one day - the Holy Spirit will get hold of you, look you in the eye, and make it very clear that God's not happy about it, and it's got to stop.

Similarly, you will one day discover that there's something you really want to do, but it's not right. It could be, for example, developing an inappropriate use of your time - like spending so much time on the golf course that you're never at home and never in church. Or it could be embarking on an inappropriate sexual relationship, or keeping almost all your money for yourself and neglecting the poor and the Lord's work. Or it could be almost anything.

But it could be that God says something about your life that isn't really a matter of sin at all, except in the sense that He's asking you to do something, or give up something, and it would be sin to refuse. For example, He might ask us to give away a lot of money, or to move to a part of the country that we don't particularly like, or to spend time with someone we don't like, or to take a less well-paid job.

Some Christians go years without having to consider this dilemma: "Do I do what I want, or do I do what God wants?" But that day comes to us all. It's one of the tests we have to face. And it's hard. If it wasn't hard, it wouldn't be a test.

After coming to faith in Jesus, some of us find that, when it comes to the big stuff, what we want and what He wants are more or less the same. Then one day... God says something - maybe just in our conscience - that we don't want to hear. And we have a choice to make.

John 6:53-69
Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live for ever."
He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. On hearing it, many of his disciples said, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?"
Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, "Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him.
He went on to say, "This is why I told you that no-one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him."
From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

Of course, we're so familiar with this story, and with the church's understanding of what Jesus meant, that His words don't offend us at all. But they did offend many of the Jews of Jesus's time. They didn't understand that what God was saying was good.

So lets' re-phrase this passage, and apply it to ourselves:

Jesus says to us, "I tell you the truth, unless you [let your conscience fill in the blank], you and I are going to have a serious falling out. Your relationship with God will suffer, and you will experience my discipline. Whoever obeys me in this thing will know my blessing and my joy."
On hearing this, many of his disciples say, "This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?"
Aware that his disciples grumble about this, Jesus says to us, "Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus has known from the beginning which of us don't believe and who will betray him.
He goes on to say, "This is why I told you that no-one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him."
From this time many of his disciples turn back and no longer follow him.

Jesus then turned to the 12:

John 6:67-69
"You do not want to leave too, do you?" Jesus asked the Twelve.
Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God."

Peter knew that there is NOTHING that any of us can ever experience that compares to the wonder of knowing Jesus Christ. He was (at least this time!) prepared to accept what Jesus says, even if he doesn't understand it. Are you?

God will, from time to time, require us to do something, or to give up something, and we won't see HOW it could POSSIBLY be good for us to obey Him. But He wouldn't ask us to do something that wasn't good for us. Sometimes we just have to trust Him, and accept that He knows best. Are you willing to do that?

Hebrews 3:7-8
So, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing...